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Fairfax County top prosecutor Steve Descano to seek reelection in 2023

Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve T. Descano outside the Public Safety Headquarters (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano is gearing up for what may be the most heated local election race in 2023.

The first-term chief prosecutor, who defeated a longtime incumbent in 2019 on the strength of a progressive platform, is planning to seek reelection next year, a representative for Descano confirmed to FFXnow.

An official announcement is expected to come soon, another spokesperson said.

Over the last three years, Descano has championed reform policies including a diversion program for those who commit non-violent crimes, increased transparency of bond hearing data, and an end to cash bail.

Like Arlington’s Parisa Dehghani-Tafti and Loudoun’s Buta Biberaj, who were also elected in 2019 as reform advocates, Descano has been accused of being “soft on crime” and mishandling certain cases, with those involving sexual violence receiving particular scrutiny. He was also the focus of two recall campaigns last year.

In a statement to FFXnow, Descano touts his record as a “progressive” who has helped the county become “the safest jurisdiction of its size anywhere in the country, saying he’s been “encouraged by many over the last year to continue this work.”

​​I plan on making an announcement soon regarding the 2023 election. Since first being elected in 2019 I have worked each day to deliver safety and justice for our community. I’m proud of what we have accomplished, delivering progressive criminal justice reform including investments in “next generation” diversion programs, increased use of Veterans Treatment and Mental Health dockets, creating a Red Flag Law team aimed at getting guns out of someone’s hands who poses a danger, and leading a more transparent office by the launch of a public Data Dashboard on our work.

These and other reforms have helped deliver a justice system led by our values all while making Fairfax County the safest jurisdiction of its size anywhere in the country. I have been encouraged by many over the last year to continue this work. I am grateful for that encouragement and also for the widespread community support that has resulted in us having over $100,000 in campaign funds on hand one full year prior to the next election. This shows the strength and breadth of the support from those that want to keep Fairfax County’s justice system moving forward.

Four years ago, Decano was part of a wave of Northern Virginia progressive prosecutors to be elected as their localities’ top law enforcement officer.

In Arlington, Dehghani-Tafti launched her reelection campaign late last month. Biberaj hasn’t yet declared her intentions for next year.

Fairfax County Sheriff Stacey Kincaid is also planning to run for reelection in 2023, she told FFXnow by email, though she didn’t elaborate on her reasoning.

Kincaid was first elected in 2013 in a special election, becoming the first woman to lead the office in its nearly three centuries of existence. She was reelected in 2015 and 2019, so this will be her fourth time running.

While the commonwealth’s attorney and sheriff often work together on cases, a disputed incident last year suggested some friction between the two offices.

A Sept. 28, 2021 incident report from the sheriff’s office accused Descano and his chief deputy of displaying “disrespect and unprofessionalism” toward county courthouse security guards that were “unsuited for an officer of the court.”

However, FFXnow’s review of video from the incident and a courthouse source appeared to mostly contradict the sheriff’s office report.

Neither Descano nor the sheriff’s office has publicly commented on the incident since.

Several other local elected officials have already confirmed their intentions for 2023.

Dranesville District school board member Elaine Tholen won’t be running next year, while Hunter Mill District Representative Melanie Meren said she will. Springfield District Representative Laura Jane Cohen is shifting gears and is looking to join the Virginia House of Delegates.

Five county supervisors will also seek reelection, while Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross and Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust are both stepping down after long tenures on the board.

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